What is an Improper Search in San Francisco?
An improper search in California is an illegal search that violates an individual's constitutional right to privacy.
The Fourth Amendment prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement in places where a person has a reasonable expectation of privacy. This includes their residence, property, and body, as well as specific areas of a motor vehicle (such as a locked trunk), and certain public places (for example, a public restroom stall).
For a search to be reasonable, and therefore proper:
- Police must have probable cause to believe incriminating evidence exists and they obtain a search warrant from a judge, or
- The circumstances make it lawful for police to conduct a search without a warrant.
A court can suppress evidence found during an improper search, meaning it cannot be used against the defendant during their trial. An experienced criminal defense attorney from The Geller Firm will examine your case and determine whether your rights were violated. Call us today at 415-840-0570 to schedule a consultation.
Proper versus Improper Searches in California
A court will consider several factors when deciding whether a search was conducted properly.
A proper, or lawful, search is conducted
- Under a proper warrant;
- Without a proper warrant but where the police believe in good faith there is a lawful basis for the search–the “good faith exception.” (For example, if the police rely in good faith on an invalid search warrant and otherwise behave properly during the search.)
- Where the circumstances mean a warrant is not required
Situations that do not require a warrant include where:
- Police search a person after a lawful arrest
- Police search a vehicle after a lawful stop
- There is a risk that incriminating evidence may be destroyed or concealed
- A person is briefly held for investigation during a “stop and frisk”
- The search relates to a person the authorities are in “hot pursuit” of
- The person being searched or the property owner consents to the search
In these situations, law enforcement can conduct a proper search without a warrant.
An improper, or unlawful, search occurs when:
- The police conduct a search without a warrant in circumstances where a warrant is required
- The police conduct a search under an improper warrant and the good-faith exception does not apply
- The search is conducted in a way that violates a person's reasonable expectation of privacy
If these circumstances exist, a defendant may file a motion with the court asking it to find the search improper and apply the exclusionary rule.
An Improper Search and the Exclusionary Rule
The exclusionary rule prevents the government from relying on evidence obtained as a result of a violation of an individual's constitutional rights. It means that any evidence found in the course of an improper search cannot be used as evidence against a defendant during a criminal trial.
When to Hire a Criminal Defense Lawyer in San Francisco
If the prosecution is relying on evidence found during a police search, you should ask an experienced criminal defense lawyer at The Geller Firm to review your case. They can advise you whether the correct search and seizure procedures were followed.
If your constitutional rights have been violated by an improper search, our defense lawyers can help you argue that the evidence found during the search should be suppressed at your trial. If successful, this may weaken the prosecution's case against you and help you defend the charges. To learn more, you should contact The Geller Firm today by calling 415-840-0570 or submitting an online form today and schedule a consultation.